For NBA fans, things weren’t looking good even very recently. On 11/15/11, NBA Commissioner David Stern said that “…we are about to go into the nuclear winter of the NBA.”
Yet the Lockout finally ended on 12/8/11, and today’s Christmas Day holiday that marked the start of the NBA’s shortened 2011-2012 campaign couldn’t have been more successful. Fans should be very excited for the season that wasn’t supposed to be, especially after seeing how day 1 turned out. A rundown of the day’s activity:
Boston Celtics at New York Knicks
In the first game of the day, Carmelo Anthony’s 37 points (17 in the 4th Quarter) fueled a New York Knicks 2nd half comeback that treated a rowdy Madison Square Garden crowd to a 106-104 win over the Boston Celtics.
Rajon Rondo showed that this season may be the one that officially kills the notion that the Celtics only stop and go with the ‘big 3′ of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. He scored 31 points and added 13 assists to go along with 5 steals while going 11 of 19 from the field.
The game was an up and down affair that saw the Knicks leading by 10 at the half, only to struggle mightily in the 3rd Quarter as they headed into the 4th Quarter down by 8 before Anthony brought it home with the team on his shoulders. Amare Stoudamire added 21 for the Knicks while Tyson Chandler chipped in with 6 blocks on the defensive end. Brandon Bass gave the Celtics plenty of energy off the bench with 20 points on 9 of 13 shooting, while Ray Allen added 20 as well.
Miami Heat at Dallas Mavericks
The next game of the day was nowhere near as close. In a rematch of the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat went into Dallas with a chip on their shoulders and slugged the Mavericks throughout much of the first 3 quarters.
With the game plenty out of reach, the Mavs would eventually show some life and made the game appear much closer than it actually was with the Heat winning 105-94.
Lebron James led all scorers with 37 points for the Heat to go along with 10 rebounds and 6 assists. Dwayne Wade added 25 of his own as the Heat shot over 48% from the field, while the Mavericks struggled to get anything going outside of guard Jason Terry who led the team with 23 points. Dirk Nowitzki added 22, but the Heat clearly dominated inside as they out-rebounded the Mavs 51 to 31.
Chicago Bulls at LA Lakers
In perhaps the most anticipated game of the day, reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose would lead the Chicago Bulls to a thrilling 88-87 comeback win over Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers that was capped with a Rose floater in the lane with 4 seconds left. The Bulls really struggled in the 2nd half after coming out the stronger team in a well-played first half by both teams.
Midway through the 4th Quarter, the Bulls were shooting 18% from the field in the 2nd half without having attempted a free throw since the 2nd Quarter. After making up the 7 point halftime deficit in quick fashion during the early part of the 3rd Quarter, Kobe and the Lakers would eventually build a 11 point lead with just under 4 minutes to go in the game.
Yet that was when the Bulls would come alive behind the play of forward Luol Deng. Deng came up with a 3-point play, a couple free throws, a critical steal of a Bryant pass that would lead to Rose’s eventual game winning shot, and a game sealing block on Kobe’s driving layup attempt as time expired. Things could not have gotten off to a better start for the Bulls — who had the NBA’s best record last season — and Rose who became the youngest MVP of all time.
Orlando Magic at Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant and the Thunder came out and dominated almost the entirety of the game as he finished with 30 points to lead his squad to a 97-89 win over the Orlando Magic. The game was not even that close as the Magic would actually outscore the Thunder by 10 in the 4th Quarter to make the final score more respectable.
James Harden chipped in 19 although did most of his damage from the free throw line. Russell Westbrook did not follow up his breakout season last year with a very strong showing as he turned the ball over 7 times and struggled from the field, but Durant more than made up for his lack of scoring. Dwight Howard has been nothing more than a distraction so far this off-season for the Magic, and he and the team did nothing Christmas Day to suggest that they were going to be in sync here in the early part of the season.
After getting out to a great start, they fizzled early and would never make this much of a game. Howard would struggle on the day, shooting 4 of 12 from the field to finish with 11 points. Forward-Center Ryan Anderson led the Magic with 25 points including 6 three pointers.
LA Clippers at Golden State Warriors
The Clippers made a strong case that the hype is real and that they could very well be the new kings of Los Angeles as they easily pulled away in the 4th quarter to cap off a 105-86 win in Chris Paul’s debut. The Warriors actually played well and hung around even into the early 4th quarter during Coach Mark Jackson’s debut, but Paul and the Clippers proved too much to handle.
In 5 straight possessions during the middle of the 4th quarter, Paul sank 3 straight field goals and Blake Griffin sank the next 2 to help the Clippers start the rout. It truly was a team effort as Griffin led all scorers with 22 points to go along with 7 rebounds, while Paul would add 20 points and dish 9 assists. The other big free agent signing, Caron Butler, added a double double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while big man DeAndre Jordan swatted 8 shots to match his career high.
David Lee led the Warriors with 21 points and 12 rebounds, while guards Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry struggled mightily from the field and combined to go 8 for 31 from the field for 19 points and 9 turnovers.
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